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Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Abe statement on history up in the air

By Cai Hong (China Daily) Updated: 2013-04-11 08:01

Abe statement on history up in the air

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said on a number of occasions that he intends to issue a new statement on history in 2015, to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the World War II.

Former Japanese prime minister Tomiichi Murayama issued a statement on Aug 15, 1995, the 50th anniversary of Japan's surrender, offering "deep remorse" and a "heartfelt apology" to people, particularly in Asia, whose suffering was caused by Japan's colonial rule and invasion of Asia.

"During a certain period in the not too distant past, Japan, following a mistaken national policy, advanced along the road to war, only to ensnare the Japanese people in a fateful crisis, and, through its colonial rule and aggression, caused tremendous damage and suffering to the people of many countries, particularly to those of Asian nations. In the hope that no such mistake be made in the future, I regard, in a spirit of humility, these irrefutable facts of history, and express here once again my feelings of deep remorse and state my heartfelt apology."

Prior to that on Aug 4, 1993, during the Miyazawa administration, then-chief cabinet secretary Yohei Kono released a statement on the result of a study into the issue of "comfort women" - the women and girls who were forced to be sex slaves for Japanese military personnel before and during WWII - in which the government of Japan extended "its sincere apologies and remorse to all those, irrespective of place of origin, who suffered immeasurable pain and incurable physical and psychological wounds as comfort women".

However, Abe's Liberal Democratic Party is the confluence for Japanese history deniers who deny there is any legitimacy to the calls from neighboring countries for historical reconciliation and claim their historical accounts are false.

Speaking to Japanese legislators on March 12, Abe said that the Tokyo war crimes trials following World War II were no more than victors' justice. "The view of that great war was not formed by the Japanese themselves, but rather by the victorious Allies, and it is by their judgment only that (Japanese) have been condemned."

During his first stint as prime minister in 2006-07, Abe stated that the verdicts of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, known more commonly as the Tokyo Trials, "have been accepted by Japan, and so we are in no position to object now". But he also claimed that the Class A war criminals "are not war criminals under the laws of Japan".

As soon as Abe was elected to the House of Representatives in 1993, he became a member of the LDP's History and Deliberation Committee. The committee published a book titled Overview of the Greater East Asia War on Aug 15, 1995, the 50th anniversary of Japan's defeat in the WWII.

The book argued that "The Greater East Asia War" (the Asia-Pacific War) was not an aggressive war, but a war for self-existence and self-defense and for the liberation of Asia from Western powers. It claimed that the comfort women and atrocities such as the Nanjing Massacre are fabrications and that Japan did not commit war crimes.

It recommended that since "biased" school textbooks contain "false information" about Japan's wartime activities, a "textbook struggle" (an attack on education) is necessary.

Abe has not yet changed these views publicly and he still refuses to honor the pledge Kono made in his statement that Japan would face up squarely to the historical facts "and take them to heart as lessons of history".

Although people are not sure how he is going to modify the statements and whether his own can be actually delivered, Abe has said that he would like to release "a future-oriented statement that is suitable for the 21st century" and he has no intention of making it a diplomatic or political issue.

However, he and his fellow revisionists are allowing their desire to rewrite history to ruin relations with China, South Korea and other countries.

It is a forlorn hope that the Abe administration will formally acknowledge, apologize and accept historical responsibility for Japan's wartime activities in a clear and unequivocal manner.

Of the 19-member cabinet, nine, including Abe, are from the Group of Diet Members for Consideration of Japan's Future and History Education, which has consistently worked to remove any reference to comfort women and the Nanjing Massacre from textbooks. Thirteen, also including Abe, are members of the Discussion Group of the Nippon Kaigi Diet Members - Nippon Kaigi is the biggest right-wing organization in Japan.

By seeking to revise the Tokyo War Tribunal view of history, the Kono Statement and the Murayama Statement, Abe and his fellow revisionists are leading Japan down a path that is taking it further and further away from being a legitimate and credible member of the international community.

The only statement suitable for the 21st century is an honest acknowledgment of and full and sincere apology for Japan's shameful past.

The author is Tokyo bureau chief of China Daily. E-mail: caihong@chinadaily.com.cn

(China Daily 04/11/2013 page8)

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